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2010-01-15 18:38:43

10 Steps for Making Your Website Work for You

 

It’s the beginning of a new year and many of you are making resolutions. Many of these have to do with making your website work for you. This means that you are in the process of hiring an SEO company or an SEO professional to optimize your real estate website. This can be a daunting task due to the fact that the technical world of Search Engine Optimization involves questions your not even qualified to ask. I’d like to share the 10 most important questions to ask when interviewing an SEO company.
1.      How do you research your keyword phrases?
One of the first things that most agents ask us is how do we research the best keyword phrases for their particular circumstance, and can we get them to the top of their market. The easiest way to research this is to ask the SEO specialist what some of the keyword phrases are that they try to optimize for and see how good they are. If they can’t answer this request, run the other way.
2.      What is your specialty?
The world of website technology has become like medicine. The best professionals to go to are the specialists. The next question that you want to know is if they create websites AND do SEO, or if they just specialize in SEO. Companies that try to do both have neither the manpower nor the resources to do both effectively; especially if they are a large company. Too often I see large website companies that say they also do SEO, only to find out that their style of optimization is the old “cookie cutter” approach wherein you get the same code as their other clients only with the location changed.
3.      Do you offer a guarantee?
To be honest, for many years even we didn’t offer a guarantee due to the constant change of algorithms with the search engines. However our people are so good now that we have full confidence of offering a money-back guarantee. Almost no one else will offer this quality of service.
4.      Do you have references I can call?
This is a very valid question and gets to the heart of whether the SEO company delivers on their promises. In addition, you can do actual searches on these people if provided to see where they come up one various searches. In addition to references, the SEO company should have a list of testimonials that you can research. These should be non-requested testimonials.
5.      Can you get my website to rank on the first page of Google?
This is a trick question and you should be very interested in the answer. If the response is simply “Yes” or “Yes of course”, run the other way. Why? Because not all websites are created equal. For example websites built by particular vendors whom I shall not name here are so bad and inflexible that they are nearly impossible to get to the top of the major search engines, let alone Google. Other times you may have a strong custom website that has all the right trimmings, but if it has just been built, it will typically take some time for Google to recognize it without some major “on-page” and “off-page” efforts. The correct answer to the question is “Tell me first of all a little bit about your website”.
6.      What is your experience in the real estate industry?
It’s amazing to me how many people think that just because they know a lot about SEO, they think that they can be highly qualified to do vertical marketing for industries such as real estate. Without having been in the trenches and working with buyers, you are not going to know what questions they ask and what they are looking for when first looking at a real estate website. Your SEO professional should understand what questions will attract a buyer to a website, what widgets should be used to make the website compelling, what types of content should be used on the website and where. There are many other specifics that I don’t have room for here, but suffice it to say that we have developed over the years a list of 125 real estate specific keyword phrases that we test out for each client. This is before we even know their specialty such as short sale, foreclosures, luxury condos, etc. The final list can top 500 and you can’t just walk into this type of knowledge.
7.      What can you tell me about my current “Google Score” or website quality?
This is another key question. Your “Google Score” (a name we made up) is a term we use to define the quality of your overall website. To give you just a feel about what this report will give you, the first page highlights your score, your relative ranking and your metadata keyword phrases. You’ll also receive excellent off-page information such as your domain aging/expiration information, your Google PageRank and the number of Google indexed pages. The 3rd section will give you all you need to know about the blogosphere and the information about your blog site and how it ranks.
One of the more interesting parts of this report is the “Social Mediasphere” analysis which shows you how the social media that we’ll be talking about ties into your website. This report will quickly tell you how your website and your social media all tie together. It’s invaluable to you, and it’s free. Plus again, if you want to see how your website compares with one of your competitors, we’ll do the comparison for you.
8.      How many keyword phrases do you usually try to get ranked on page 1?
One of the most misused concept about SEO is the thinking that you are trying to get found under a specific keyword phrase. If you understand nothing else about SEO, you must understand this: Websites are likely to receive most of their search engine visitors through a large variety of low-volume search queries instead of a handful of major keyword phrases. Therefore focusing on developing the keyword phrases which receive lower volumes of search traffic will lead to an increase in the overall amount of visitors from search engines to your website. What does this mean? It means that if you live in San Diego, forget trying to get found under “San Diego real estate”. It’s too competitive and is not even the most popular keyword phrase for the area. Believe it or not, “San Diego CA real estate” is. In fact it is 4 times as requested with 3 times fewer websites that are going after it.
Thus the answer to this question should be a well thought out plan to get dozens and dozens of “low-volume” search queries in addition to the few competitive ones as well.
9.      How can I tell what services and features you will do for me before I buy?
One of the worst feelings is that of not knowing what you are buying and having to “trust” the salesman on the other end of the line in a technology that you may think you need, but you don’t understand. This is why you should be able to be directed to the company’s website for all the information you need to become knowledgeable about the process. The SEO company’s website should be a “due diligence” site that explains every service and feature that they offer.
10.How much is the service, how long do I pay and what is the contractual obligation?
Notice that I’ve left the big question to the last. I’ll spend more time here as this is the heart of most agents’ concerns. Here’s my question to you. Which is more important; saving money or making money? Most people say saving money, which is why they don’t invest in themselves or their marketing. Ever heard of the expression “Penny wise and pound foolish?” You might save a dollar today, but you’ll lose two or three tomorrow.
The biggest question for you is what is the value of the service and can I afford it now, to make more in the future? If SEO was not making money for so many agents, they would have stopped doing it years ago. Instead, the competition is only getting stronger for those few ranking positions.
Cost therefore is the value you place upon it and what you perceive the return on investment. Yes, I said investment as that is what it is. SEO does not yield immediate results but sometimes can take months and patience.
How long you pay for the service is quite a different matter. Nearly every service that I know of has a monthly fee in that like a good stock broker or financial advisor, your investment should be worked on constantly. And as your investment is worked on constantly, you should expect reports sent to you at least on a monthly basis to hold the SEO specialist accountable.
There are two major business models that are in play today. The more popular model is to pay for the service upfront and have a smaller monthly service fee. The reason why this is more popular is that it typically does not involve an annual contract to lock you in for a time period. The other business model is to spread out the cost of the entire upfront and service fee over the life of the service with a mandatory yearly contract. The benefit of this is that the upfront cost is lower, yet the monthly cost is higher and if the service is not what you expect, you are locked in. There are benefits and detriments to each method, but only if the service is poor.
Too many businesses large and small look at search engine optimization as a nuisance and an expense, since when is promoting your business online a nuisance and expense? Search engine optimization and marketing should be viewed as an investment. When you approach you’re online marketing from just a rankings stand point it can be quite difficult to see the value in search engine marketing.
 Randy Eagar is  a national speaker and trainer as well as an SEO consultant to hundreds of well-known real estate professionals. He has received the reputation of being a technology humorist as he makes technology enjoyable and interesting. 

WebsTarget SEO focuses on real estate website positioning and marketing. To learn how strong your website is against your competitors, go to http://www.webstarget.com/land-realtown-article.html.

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